First of all, I want to say that I had planned on blogging while at the Family History Expo – or at least in my hotel room afterward. As you can see, that didn’t happen.
I must think myself a superhuman of some sort. I wanted to be away from my family for as little time as possible (and of course save some money), so I decided not to get a hotel room the night before the conference. Instead, I rolled out of my driveway at 2:30 a.m. – as in when I should still be snoozing. I actually usually don’t even go to sleep until after midnight, so this was a stretch for me. I didn’t seem to consider how tired I would be though. I was excited.
The drive between Savannah and Macon is a very boring one. The only thing that kept me awake was the fact that I had to be very vigilant about the bright eyed and bushy tailed deer that were wandering on the highway – the gallon of Coke I drank helped too. The last stretch, from Macon to Atlanta, was of a different nature. Maybe I’m an Alaskan driver now after having spent the past 3 years there. I’m not sure, but nothing in my driving experience has prepared me for the craziness of Atlanta drivers. I was going at least 10 over and people were passing me like I was parked on the interstate. There were 8 lanes to the freeway! When you don’t really know where you’re going and you’re extremely sleepy, that isn’t a good mix. I made it alive though and pulled into the convention center with plenty of time to spare – thankfully.
I didn’t have a hotel room until after the conference and I was leery about leaving my computer and camera in the car, so I lugged it around with me all day long. It was really heavy and I was really tired. I wished that I had wheels on my bag, as many people did. I also wish that I had packed some drinks and snacks, because the food there was comparable to airport food in price. I wasn’t leaving though and chancing getting lost, so I sucked it up and lived on M&M’s, coffee, and a very overpriced deli sandwich.
I managed to drink enough coffee to keep an elephant awake for a week. That, paired with the excitement of my first conference, kept me going all day.
Here is a recap of the classes I took the first day of the Expo:
- Social Networking for Genealogists, taught by Thomas MacEntee of Geneablogger fame. I came away with some new information. I obviously am not a complete newbie to social media. I have a couple of blogs. I am on Facebook – although I’m not an addict. Maybe I’m in denial. I didn’t know anything about wikis though (other than Wikipedia) and I learned a few basic things about Twitter (which I was completely ignorant about).
- Traditional DNA Testing and Beyond – The Next Revolution in Genetic Genealogy, taught by Elise Friedman. I think that most people don’t really understand DNA. I am not a math and science whiz, so a page full of complicated numbers makes my brain shut down very quickly. I wanted to try to learn a bit about what my DNA report actually shows (I had my brother do one on Ancestry a few years back) and if it would be worth doing another one, with more markers. I was pleased to find out that Family Tree DNA offers a new type of DNA test that I can take – and that it is not a direct-line sort of test. It sounds exciting, but it is still quite expensive. It is called “Family Finder” and costs about $289. I probably won’t be doing it anytime in the near future. I still have 5 kids to feed after all.
- Siblings for Sarah: A Whole Family Research Approach to Identifying Parents, taught by Deborah Campisano. From the very beginning of my research, I have always done the whole family, so this was not a new concept to me. I did enjoy seeing this practice confirmed and learning about some new records that I should go and search.
- Creating the Perfect Biography That Even Non-Relatives Will Want to Read!, taught by M. Bridget Cook. She is the author of a couple of biographies, including Shattered Silence. I am definitely at a point in my research where I feel like I need to start sharing the information I have in a more exciting format. She talked about adding juicy details to the biographies we write – on ourselves or our ancestors.
- My Ancestors Were From Germany and I Don’t Speak German! Easily Available Resources Specific to German Research, taught by Tamra Stansfield of FamilySearch. I actually do speak a little German. I took 4 years of it in high school and went to Germany as an exchange student during the summer. I don’t really use it anymore, but I can get by with a dictionary. I have German ancestry on many different lines, and I haven’t really delved into the research “across the pond”, so I was interested about hearing the different resources available in this research.
Besides the classes, there was plenty of time to wander the exhibit hall. There were booths from the regulars like Ancestry and FamilySearch, but there were some products that I had never seen before. One of them that I thought was really cool is the Flip Pal scanner. It is a small, portable, battery-operated scanner. Can you imagine being able to take it along with you when you visit a relative with old photos? You could scan the pictures without taking them out of the albums! I’m thinking that you could copy courthouse records this way also, but I’m not sure if all of them would allow this. It’s now on my wish list of cool gadgets that I would like to have.
After all of the classes and browsing, I headed over to my hotel (pretty much across the parking lot) and checked in. I had planned on going out to dinner and then spending a blissful evening of sitting on my king-sized bed, watching TV on the flatscreen (I don’t have cable or satellite at home), and blissfully blogging about my day. Do you think that this happened? Of course not.
My caffeine high was gone and I crashed and burned. I managed to dial room service for some dinner – Monterey Chicken, my favorite. I ate and then I was out. I slept like the dead. My computer didn’t even get turned on.
It was a long, but very rewarding day. Day 2 Recap to come….